Canucks look to bounce back against Lightning (Dec 16, 2016)
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The Vancouver Canucks will try to get rid of the taste of canvas in their mouths Friday when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Canucks (12-16-2) are looking to pick themselves up off the proverbial mat after suffering a stunning 8-6 road knockdown to Carolina on Tuesday. After looking like they would coast to a win, the Canucks squandered a 5-2 lead in the third period.
"It was pretty deflating," Vancouver goaltender Ryan Miller said after practice Thursday. "The nature of hockey and the NHL is, you pretty much more get defined by how you persevere, how you get up off the ground."
The Canucks return home after a 1-4 road trip in which speculation resumed on the future of coach Willie Desjardins, who has been tasked with trying to groom young players into National Hockey League regulars and still keep the club in playoff contention. But Desjardins is not willing to let youth, injuries or other factors be used as excuses.
"It doesn't matter what's happening," Desjardins said after the fast-paced workout at Rogers Arena. "If you're up by three in the third period, you've gotta find a way to win."
The Lightning (15-13-2) have won just twice in their last nine games, but will provide a good test given that they are legitimate Stanley Cup contenders. They will also provide a tonic of sorts.
Vancouver's lone win on the recent road trip was a 5-1 beatdown of the Bolts.
"They'll be ready for us," said Desjardins. "They weren't happy with what had happened at home, and they're going to come (hard) and they're a good team -- and we know that. For us, we can't worry about what another team brings. We've have to worry about what we bring and what we do. We have to get back. We have to recover from the third period (against Carolina). That was a tough one."
But the performance in Tampa Bay was a good one. Center Bo Horvat said the Canucks are looking to rediscover the same winning feeling.
"I thought we had one of our better games in Tampa Bay," said Horvat. "We played the systems well. Everybody was working hard. Everybody was going. Obviously, we had some great goaltending, too. They're one of the top teams in the league, and they have been for the last couple years. It just shows that we have the team to beat them -- and beat great teams in the league."
The Canucks got some good news Thursday as defenseman Chris Tanev, who has missed 20 games with an ankle injury, returned to practice. He was feeling good afterward and could play Friday, depending on how the ankle fares in the team's morning skate.
"I'm just happy to be out there," said Tanev. "It felt good (Thursday), so we're taking it day by day right now."
Desjardins was optimistic about Tanev's chances of playing but said that another key rearguard who has been out for an extended period, Alex Edler, whose status was questioned Thursday, will likely not return until after Christmas.
Meanwhile, the Lightning has more injury concerns after Nikita Kucherov missed Wednesday's 6-3 win in Calgary with an undisclosed injury and winger Ondrej Palat left the game in the second period. They add to a fallen forwards list that includes Steven Stamkos, likely out until the playoffs, and Ryan Callahan, who is considered close to returning.
In the meantime, the Bolts have found inspiration from some unlikely scorers. Center Brian Boyle's two goals in Calgary ended his scoring drought at 13 games. Meanwhile, defenseman netted his first goal since Oct. 23, 2015, and fellow blueliner Andrej Sustr snapped a 31-game goal drought.
"It really lifts the guys up on the bench because guys are really pulling for those guys," Lightning coach Jon Cooper told reporters in Calgary. "You can just tell there's a weight off their shoulders because it makes them feel a part of things. It was a total team effort (Wednesday.) Kuch is out and we lost Palat early in the second period. Stamkos is out. You need to get goals from somebody. When you're getting them from everybody it's a confidence builder for us."
Canucks center Brandon Sutter is expecting a strong start from the Lightning, based on the way it commenced the last meeting between the teams. Sutter and his teammates want to avoid taking penalties against a strong power play.
But while the Bolts are known for scoring, Boyle contended that goaltender Ben Bishop has been the biggest difference-maker, even though he sports a modest 9-10-1 mark with a .924 save percentage and 2.87 goals-against average.
"He's been our best player for quite a few years," Boyle told reporters in Calgary. "